Slow Down for Winter Bass

By Best Bassin’, Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau and Zman Lures. Bass are cold-blooded creatures, meaning as the water temperature drops lower and lower, bass move slower and slower! Add in some ice chilling water temperatures and lethargic becomes the norm in the underwater world of Micropterus Salmoide. (The scientific name for largemouth bass.)

Speaking of scientific, this is the perfect opportunity to employ Z-MAN’s cutting edge ElaZtech soft plastic technology. At no time does ‘Do-Nothing Dead-Sticking’ mean Everything! When nose hooked on a drop-shot rig, the 4-inch Finesse ShadZ coupled with its exceptional inherent buoyance mimics the lifelike movement of lethargic baitfish in frigid coldwater. This is also the time when vertical presentations out preform horizontal presentations. Making the perfect vertical presentation requires anglers to first locate wintering areas with their electronic sonars!

This image shows a school of largemouth bass hugging the bottom and stacked up like cordwood. These bass can be very tough to catch! However, this Lowrance image demonstrates the importance of making the perfect vertical presentation, paired with the perfect boat position.

Chasing winter bass requires anglers to spend time idling slowly as they monitor their sonars, logging waypoints, then dissecting these waypoints even slower with their trolling motors inserting additional waypoints pinpointing high percentage spots. High percentage areas may be in the form of vertical cover such as brush piles, rocks, large boulders, and ledges or as pictured above structural contour changes. Add in deep vegetation and baitfish… And, you may have found a real winter honey-hole!

Utilize your trolling motor to position yourself above the baitfish/bass. This is when a trolling motor mounted sonar pays-off big time. Allow your drop-shot rig to fall straight down to the bottom, as you monitor it falling on your sonar screen. If bass move towards your bait, this signals an active or aggressive school. If your bait misses the target you may need to attach a heavier drop-shot weight or adjust your boat position.

Remember both the water and air temperatures are cold. Pre-rigging several drop-shot rods and jighead rods prior to hitting the water makes life a whole lot easier when snags or bass break-off and re-tying becomes a cold on-the-water chore!

Keep it simple and subtle when choosing baits for winter bass! More often than not when it comes to action ‘Less is Best’! The following Z-MAN 3” to 4” baits are excellent Winter Bass choices for Drop-Shot Rigs.

3” Scented LeechZ™

4” Finesse ShadZ™

StreakZ™ 3.75

4” Finesse WormZ™

One important factor to increasing your Drop-Shot bites when fishing cold-water is to keep your baits on or close to the bottom! A short six-inch or less Drop-Shot leader allows your Z-MAN bait to float just off the bottom.

The same subtle action applies when choosing jig-head baits for winter bass! ‘Less is Best’! When it comes to the Dead-Sticking technique, Z-MAN ElaZtech plastics out preform all other plastic baits! Z-MAN ElaZtech’s inherent buoyance allows your bait to incorporate lifelike movement of lethargic forage in frigid coldwater. The following Z-MAN 2.75” and 4” baits are excellent Winter Bass choices for Jig-Head Rigs.

2.75” TRD TubeZ™

2.75” Finesse TRD™

4” Hula StickZ™

4” Big TRD™

Trout Eye™ Jigheads

Finesse ShroomZ™

Shaky HeadZ™

The above Z-MAN JigheadZ models allow for several versatile rigging options. For sliding or gliding applications as well as penetrating deep weedlines and vegetation, the pointed large wide-eye head of the Trout Eye jighead falls faster and characterizes a dying shad. Z-MAN’s Finesse ShroomZ matches perfectly as designed with all four of the above baits. While, both the Finesse ShroomZ and Shaky HeadZ may be inserted into the TRD TubeZ, rigging any of the baits by sliding unto the 4/0 Mustad Ultra Point Hook is the perfect Shaky Head combination.

The same vertical boat position over the bass/baitfish applies when descending a jighead presentation. Let your bait fall to the bottom and allow it to lay motionless for as long as you can stand it. Then apply a smooth upward jigging or stroking action allowing your bait to fall back to the bottom, then lay motionless before reeling in and making another cast. Change up your retrieve and cadence until you trigger strikes.

As the aggressive JigheadZ Bait hopping presentation becomes non-productive its time to return to finesse Dead-Stick and Drop-Shot techniques. I have caught bass in 34 degree water drop-shotting in open water, when other sections of the lake were iced over! The key to success is downsizing both your line and baits keeping a balance combination as the water temperature drops. Bass become more lethargic as water temperatures decrease. This is the time for smaller do-nothing baits to entice big cold-water bass.

Best Bassin’

Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

May-June Edition of ODU Mag
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